Matter of Heart
“Why Shalom?” a new friend asked me last week.
“Are you Jewish?”
For a decade now, this word has been a deeply significant part of our family’s faith journey.
Our daughter ‘Evangeline Shalom’ was named on a bitterly cold January afternoon in the middle of snow flurries, with great intentionality, (and we felt, at the time, a prompting from the Lord.)
The word ‘Shalom‘ means ‘peace’.
Evangeline ‘Evie’ Shalom, our angelic 9 lb. bundle, completed our perfect little family and ushered in a season of 5 children 5 years old and under (gulp!)
Yes please. We could use a little peace in our lives.
And this sweet, passive, easy-going baby was just that – perfect peace. Peace for 10 blissful days.
…..then the storm.
A storm that rocked our world and shook my faith to the core.
At the bedside of our baby, we faced the near certainty that we would never bring her home from the hospital or hold her without tubes and probes and drains and monitors. Chad and I had gut-wrenching conversations preparing for a funeral and making decisions that no parents should ever have to consider. I remember a wave of bitter confusion when the meaning of her name came to mind while I held her bruised, blue, cyanotic hand in the dead of my darkest night.
Why did we name this child “peace”? This child whose little life was anything but peaceful!!
I wrestled with the notion for the next days….weeks…and then months as she took two steps forward, and one step back on a long, grueling road to stable. For the next two years our life centered around more surgeries, sedations, monitors and medications, diagnosis and doctors appointments, blood draws and biopsies, intubations and infections that I can count.
But her name wasn’t a mistake.
…and it wasn’t some cruel cosmic joke.
God taught us through the messiest, most painful, stretching, agonizing, disruptive season of our lives, that peace is not reflective merely of harmonious circumstances. We learned what it meant to be at peace….at peace in the storm! To cling to the only unshakable thing – Him – when our world was unraveling.
To trust His unchangeable qualities when our life was in disorder.
To hold fast to the promises of who He is, when what today brings is only uncertainty and heartache.
Not circumstantial. Not emotional. Peace is not the lack of a storm, but a lifeline in the storm…..a sunbeam of hope and glimpse of eternity when the agony of this world has been too much to bear.
“Shalom” is inscribed above our breakfast nook where I see it 1,000 times a day as I serve our family and clean our messes. Reminding me, over and over, of His peace. In the ugly. In the uncertainty. In fear. In the storm.
He is unchanging, unwavering, unshakable. His character is compassion. His plans are for good. He’s not bound by space and time and circumstances. He is eternal and he sees….he cares….and he redeems all things.
Grateful today for His shalom of peace for every storm and season, past, present and future.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace Igive you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
You’d think 15 years at this would give me a sure footing and firm grip, but Im having one of those weeks Im tempted to throw in the towel. “Lets just quit and go get a real job“.
It may not have come out of my mouth, but that echo of doubt in my mind is audible.
For a decade and a half, our family, which grows by the year, has lived supported and funded by individuals who believe in the cause we have poured our life into – seeing the nations reached with the message of the Gospel.
Missionaries on foreign fields.
That means our very existence is dependent on others.
Scratch that….its dependent on God.
But our capacity to provide for our family and expand the ministries we have responsibility for is contingent on others rallying around us. We cannot do this work we do alone.
We’ve seen God provide over the years, but this season is an exceptionally lean and we feel a bit like we are in a blow up boat headed for rapids. Do we patch the holes that are causing the raft to deflate? Do we expend our energy rowing against the current? Do we jump ship and swim to shore? Do we call out for someone to throw us a lifeline?
Im being real here friends.
This is the mental battleground we’re waging war on…
Go Get A Real Job That Pays
– In a “real job”, you know the terms. We all find security in the American Dream – a steady job from which you can build your lifestyle, commute and social activities around. You know when the paycheck is coming and for how much. Consistency of income allows you to plan for the future, give to needs around you and budget accordingly. Work ethic and diligence pay off in the form of a dependable salary.
– Living on support means you receive a report from your accountant at the end of the month reflecting whatever donations have come in. Regardless of what you’ve already spent on travel and ministry expenses, how you’ve “performed” at your job or how much overtime you’ve put in, the “salary” will be whatever it is….which has landed us in the red in recent months.
No One Likes A Schmooze
I hate support raising.
I hate asking for money. I hate seeming vulnerable, helpless, needy and dependent. Its painful to feel our motives are questioned and I worry that our friends will always think we’re looking to “hit them up” for money. I dont want people feel an obligation to us. I want to be the one blessing others, giving to them, pouring out. The verse “it is more blessed to give than to receive” makes sense in a raw way. Receiving takes a great amount of humility which is genuinely a struggle at times! We all want to be self sufficient and ‘have it together’.
Cowering Under the Microscope
I struggle daily to live for the “audience of One“. To be confident and secure in the decisions we are making and not wear the weight of wondering how others may misconstrue or misunderstand our decisions. Because even if it isn’t said out-loud, I sometimes feel (and have perceived from others), that missionaries should live destitute….or at least more humbly than everyone else they know.
In an effort to help subsidize our income, Ive been doing some writing for a magazine and blog that allows me to visit and review some fun restaurants and spas and to photograph for some cute boutiques. While I can indeed see this as a beautiful, creative way God is providing for us, there is a twinge of guilt every time I write a post or share a picture. Every date night or childs birthday or family vacation, I question, “What if people who support us think we’re spending unwisely or dont agree with this decision or feel we are irresponsible with their money“? But that’s the very point that God keeps gently prompting me with.
Its not their money.
Its not my money.
Its His money and He asks each one of us to steward His resources responsibly! That obligation is the same for all of us!
We strive, like Paul, to be content in all circumstances – in plenty and in want. In 15 years, we’ve lived on 3 different continents. We’ve experienced God’s faithful provision in creative ways. God provided a home in the states on a lake for a season! We froze our tushes off in Ukraine and have endured 110 degree heat in Thailand. We have had incredible family opportunities to see the world because of this lifestyle. Likewise, we have felt “homeless” on occasion and this nomadic, transient lifestyle has exposed our kids to poverty, need, pain and cultures that are less than hospitable at times. We’ve experienced monsoons and military coups, civil war and dangerous parasites, been exposed to tuberculosis and hepatitis, waded through seasons of loss, grief and depression alone on the field, dealt with power outages and water shortages and phone lines that don’t work to call home on grandma’s birthday. We’ve managed with C gone for weeks and weeks at a time. We’ve vacationed at one of the worlds most beautiful beaches and witnessed devastation of natural disasters. We’ve ridden elephants and played with wild monkeys. We’ve experienced creative forms of God’s provision through free piano lessons for our kids, care packages sent from friends, and generous giving by a faithful few. And while all of these adventures sound dramatic and exotic, it is a precarious perch atop a pedestal! We aren’t so different you and I. We are a family (like yours,) striving, (like you,) to honor God in our decisions. To be willing to go when He says go. To be willing to stay when He says stay. To grow in trust and dependance on Him. To steward well the resources others invest in us!
We’re reaching out. We need a lifeline friends!!
Its a pivotal time for our family and we know that changes may be on the horizon. We are considering how to be faithful to the work God has called us to (global missions) without irresponsibly driving ourselves into debt and want to invite you to be part of this journey with us!
This season of uncertainty is not a fun one. My faith is being stretched to trust He is our provider no matter what changes take place….that God knows our needs, the needs of our kids, the needs of the projects and people we support. There is great comfort in the faithfulness of the Lord and the many years and seasons and moves He has seen us through. Like Samuel, we can say “thus far, the Lord has helped us“.
The Lord will not lead where He has not already gone before and prepared the way.
If God may be prompting you to partner in any way, we extend our humble and heartfelt gratitude!
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Support – If you feel compelled to help with our funding, the “donate” button below takes you to a page where you can give a one-time gift or set up a monthly draw.
Can you give $10 or $15 a month? We need a small and faithful army of $10 givers!!
Share this post – help share the need by reposting on facebook or social media or forwarding this post by email to friends or family, your church group or Sunday school. We’d be happy to send additional information on our ministry if you’d be willing to advocate for us!
Thank you for loving our family, standing in the gap, and praying for God to move mountains on our behalf!
This week is history in the making. While hundreds of thousands of women march and advocate for rights to equality and promote the fair treatment of women who are bearers of the image of God and thus deserve equality, respect, protection and rights, Im reminded of another event in my life that was history-making. 9 years ago this week, I delivered a baby at 42 weeks gestation which (had we known of her condition before she was born), we would have been advised to terminate.
Ive read countless stories of other devastated moms who discovered their babies had heart defects at their 20 week ultrasound and were given the option, and sometimes advice, to end the pregnancy.
To end the life that likely would end anyway.
To spare their child pain and suffering.
Because the variables are just too complicated — the surgical “fix” may not work, may fail over time, may cause other medical complications, may hinder development, may reduce life-expectancy. Live birth and initial surgery are only the first hurdle. Should your child survive that, there are no guarantees and a special needs child like this will never outgrow the risks. There will always be the fear that as they grow and mature, that their repair may not hold up. No parent should have to see their child suffer the way mine has. I would gladly have given my right arm, or taken her place, as I watched her struggle for life in the first months, writhe in pain from an incision the length of her tiny torso, cry without a voice because of the ventilator tube down her throat and bruise from literally hundreds of needles and blood draws.
The issues surrounding the march today center around women’s rights. Around human rights. I too am gravely concerned about rights. About the rights of all who are marginalized. About the right to life. The rights of women, yet to be born, who cannot speak for themselves and yet, are no less “human” than you or I.
In the hospital where I work, I witnessed the stillbirth of a baby last year that stopped developing in the second trimester. The doctors tried to console the mom by saying that the fetus would be unrecognizable. But when this brave and bereaved momma pushed out the tiny frame of her underdeveloped babe, it was not as they had said.
But undeniably, intricately, beautifully formed and whole. A baby. A human.
Let me say, this is not a political post. I too am deeply saddened and concerned about the leadership of our country. And as a general rule, Id steer away from an issue as controversial and polarizing as abortion. First of all, because there is probably already an understanding of where I stand on this issue and second, I believe my opinion is unlikely to change anyones mind. However, the oversight of little lives in this huge campaign to liberate and empower cannot go unnoticed. I know many of you women marching do so out of love and concern for our daughters and in a hope to create something better for the next generation. But we are neglecting a fundamental value we believe in when we make right to abortion our battle call. Banners blaze claiming our uterus is private property.
And it is.
But for some, its also the home of a helpless, tiny human of which early eviction will mean extinction! We are violating the right to life of our unborn children and thats counterintuitive to our belief as we advocate for equal rights!! Im not going to try to tackle every reason for an abortion, which would require a whole series of blog posts. But in my years of working for and even directing a Pregnancy Resource Center, my compassion has only grown for women who find themselves in the impossible situation of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. Theirs is a hard road to walk often without the love and support that they desperately need to continue a pregnancy. Ive counseled victims of rape, teen moms and women in crisis situations. I was advised myself by doctors during my last two pregnancies that my own health was in danger and I was at increased risk of sudden death because of a heart condition of my own. Ive held hands as well with women who have been told their unborn child will be incompatible with life. Likewise, Ive supported through post-abortive counseling, women who made decisions that left them wrecked with regret and guilt and shame. My heart bleeds for them and I hope that all women will find grace, healing, hope and support! There is no room for anger in my heart – only love and compassion! Many women believe they have no other choice.
There are no easy, simplistic answers to the very painful and excruciating circumstances under which women have made impossible decisions. Decisions in which there is no easy out. Decisions that all bear ramifications no matter what you decide. But any decision to end a life as we claim our rights – is denying one for someone else. Abortion does not simply preserve and protect our rights to our bodies – it denies the rights of the unborn and takes a life.
My children are studying WWII and the mass execution of the disabled and mentally handicapped. We all find it unfathomable that such evil would possess mankind to make a judgement as to someones right to live based on their definition of the quality of life. And yet the same selection is made routinely when pregnancy is terminated based on assessment that the baby has defects or abnormalities. My two Downs-syndrome cousins (one of which was adopted knowingly accepting her handicap) are individuals that are adored by their siblings and that bring joy to all who know them. A niece of mine was found to have a cleft lip in utero. They, along with Evie, are lives that some would deem “imperfect”.
Is perfection the definition of worthiness of life? What about birth marks or vision problems or big ears or clubbed feet? Where do we draw the line qualifying ourselves as the almighty judge on worthiness of life? A great many handicapped, special needs and individuals with defects have been contributing members to society. And prenatal diagnosis we know for a fact, are not always correct. Yes, the potential for heartbreak is there. Babies with the most complex deformities wont live to adulthood. But that doesnt negate the fact that their lives served a purpose whether that be for months in utero, hours after birth, days, weeks or years. Life has meaning!
In this monumental day when women refuse to be silenced and many march to protest the oppression of a society that abuses, demeans and undervalues women, I’m campaigning just as ardently for another undervalued minority. Im standing for rights of the unborn who cannot advocate for themselves, for justice, for fair treatment, for respect, for women.
For all women.
Starting with the little lady who turns 9 this week whose life represents so many others whose rights have been denied, whose birthdays will not be celebrated, whose “defects” could have been beautiful parts of their unique, untold stories.